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Goddess atop Capitol to descend next week

Goddess atop Capitol to descend next week

Crane to extract statue from dome Thursday

November 9th, 2018 by Joe Gamm in Local News
This recent photograph shows the statue of Ceres on top of the Capitol dome which will be removed, weather permitting, Thursday, Nov. 15. It will likely be a daylong process to safely get her to the ground, where she'll be placed on a trailer for closeup viewing for two hours before being wisked away to the Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio, Inc. in Forest Park, Illinois

This recent photograph shows the statue of Ceres...

Photo by Submitted

Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, grain crops, fertility and motherly relationships, is to descend from the sky Thursday.

The 10-foot, 4-inch bronze sculpture that stands atop the Missouri Capitol dome is to be removed from her perch for the first time since she was placed there 94 years ago.

Crews are going to use a 550-ton crane to pluck the 1-ton woman from her perch Thursday morning. They are expected to begin about 7 a.m. and bring her down in full view of the public sometime before noon.

The work will be done as part of the ongoing $50 million Capitol exterior renovation project.

Once down, Ceres will stand for about two hours on a flatbed truck on the south side of the grounds in a space usually assigned to media parking.

You can look at her, but don't touch, officials said.

Then, she will be shipped to the Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio in the Chicago area for a makeover that is expected to take approximately one year.

Weather has been a little unkind to the stately woman.

Her hair, face and shoulders show pits where lightning has struck, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe said.

Kehoe and other state administrative staff held a news conference Thursday morning to discuss the process for getting Ceres to the ground and giving her a new lease on life.

Missouri — and the Jefferson City community in particular — have "a love affair with a 94-year-old woman" who stands on top of the Capitol, Kehoe said.

Ceres has stood atop the dome since Oct. 29, 1924.

"We're excited to announce that she's going to be able to be taken down for a makeover — if you will," Kehoe said.

One reason it is necessary to take Ceres down, according to Cathy Brown, director of facilities management, design and construction, is that the capstone on which she stands is in disrepair. Brown said she and others went up to look at her last week.

"Amazingly, she's in very good shape. She does need repair," Brown said. "The capstone is a different story — it's in terrible shape. We plan to replace that."

When the capstone is to be replaced has not been determined. It may be broken into smaller parts for removal. A smaller crane than that which is to remove Ceres could possibly do the job, Brown said.

During the inspection, staff found out Ceres is hollow. They guess her weight at between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds.

A 2009 assessment of the exterior of the building revealed the need for repairs at the top of the building.

But the recent up-close look surprised Brown, she said.

She said Ceres' connection to the top of the dome "has truly failed."

"I'm surprised, honestly, that she hasn't come loose from the Capitol," she said.

The removal of Ceres (and her replacement in a year) were included in the cost to renovate the building exterior. However, her makeover in Chicago was not included.

"The reason we're doing Ceres is we already have work to do for the dome. That requires the scaffolding anyway," Brown said. "So, it only makes sense from a cost perspective to go ahead and address Ceres now, as opposed to waiting until later. That would be a waste of taxpayer money."

In case Ceres can't be removed Thursday because of hazardous weather — which includes high winds, Kehoe said — a rain date has been set for Friday.

Staff will record the statue removal from the ground. They also hope to get a crew member working at the top of the dome to record the activity using a camera attached to his helmet or body.

And, the statue has its own Twitter handle. Go to @ceres_mo to view updates during her makeover.

CORRECTION: The parked location of the flatbed truck, on which Ceres will have been loaded, will be in the media parking area just north of High Street. The location was reported incorrectly in the original version of this article, but has since been corrected in the text.